Mar 4, 2021

Podcast 10: Why Is It So Hard To Grow A Service Business

Podcast 01 on what you can learn from the design startup show

Episode Transcript:

Hey design starters, today, I would like to talk about why it is so hard to grow a service-based business. So we have all heard of the SaaS business, products, and these are, you know, you can create one thing and sell many times, but as in a service-based business, there is this tendency for the service owner.

To be the one, doing everything or to be the one, delivering something. And if you have 10 customers, you have to repeat 10 times. And if you have a hundred customers, you have to repeat a hundred times, and there’s just so much time you have in a day. So if you are going to have 1000 customers, you can’t possibly deliver the same quality or the same amount of work to all thousand of them in a day.

So this is an issue here, right? We are somehow bottle-necking ourselves to the business in a way. So to think about this and to really grow your business, there are some reflections that we have to make. And I have, I’ve had many questions when I meet so many mistakes in the past 10 to 15 years in my business that.

I thought maybe I should share them with you. And you can use these, these questions to reflect upon how you can shift from difficult to grow, to, to possibility of growing. Right. So the first question is, are you putting a hundred percent of your focus on your customers? Every one of your waking hours. So with this question for myself, For the past for many, for many years, I must say since 2005, all the way to 2015 every year, you know, waking hour, I will react to all my customers, clients, emails, calls within that minute, right.

Within a few minutes, I don’t even like, I didn’t even wait for half an hour, one hour, you know, as much as I can. And, and. And that really made them very happy. However, because of that, I put myself away from anything that can help to grow the business so that I realize shouldn’t be the move that I should meet.

And I should have focused a hundred percent of my energy on them. Only a certain times of the day. All right. So I should have set some time to focus on them. And then there will be times when I have to shut off from reacting to the emails and calls and requests. The next question is, are you stuck in fulfillment?

This is a very common one where, because we as service business owners, we, we think that we are probably the only ones who can do the work, who can do the designs, who can do the creative, the strategy. And when every customer comes with a customized requests, we don’t know what they are looking for. So we just listen to them.

And then we develop a solution based on their personal, customized questions. So this will, will very much prevent your growth. And that has prevented my growth for 10 years. The next question is, are you hiring, are you even willing to let go of your. Your job as the sole designer or the person who is delivering what you are delivering to the customers.

Are you getting somebody to take over those work? Because, because the, the, the issue of a lot of us as service owners and designers is, is that we tend to not trust another person or another designer to take over that creative process, because we know what we are doing. And to articulate what we know articulate, what we think in our head to the other person is a challenge.

It’s like, It’s like, Oh, why do I need to take 10 hours of my time to train somebody else? And yet the person may not even get it when I can do the same work in probably an hour or even less than 10 minutes. I can just, you know, quickly just drop something or I’ll just play around with my Photoshop and illustrator for 15 minutes and I can come up with something good.

So why spend the 10 hours to teach somebody else? And that person may leave eventually. Right, or that doesn’t mean even copy my work. So these are negative things that you may even think about. And I must say, I have thought about this for many, many years, and, and that prevented me from the first step of asking.

Someone’s help asking for someone’s help. Yeah. So that’s with hiring. And another thing with hiring is even if you’re hiring, are you hiring the right people by people? Meaning. In the first place, are they experts in the area? They don’t have to be world-class because world-class comes with experience and years of training and working with you.

So you may not even hire a class designer to help you. Right. But, but are you hiring the person who has that bit of talent and that, that bit of edge in that area? For example, let’s say if we are talking about skills wise, I mean, we can just put it our skills wise. It can be something else. It can be any other tenants, but skills wise, if this person is better in illustrator, but not so much in, in design, is there somebody that you want, are you doing a magazine?

Are you doing, or are you doing a landing page or are you doing a logo? So if you are, so you must be clear if your offer. Claire we’ve offered that you want to scale. And with that, you will hire the right people, have the right expertise to cover this and deliver this offer. So if you are doing a productized logo design offer, then your designers must have some sort of expertise in illustrator, maybe more so than in design.

Isn’t it? So this is an obvious one, but there are many other, you know, Talent and, and the criteria that you have to set up before you hire this person. Okay. So the next one would be, are you busy doing non-growth activities? For example, looking for tools, which are used to love a lot, and I can just like sit and.

Browse and surf or millions, thousands. I don’t know how many tools there are online. Try them out, take a free trial, you know, use them at any Indian don’t use them. And I started to use different kinds of tools at the same time and it wasted all my time. It just, it just took up so much of my time when eventually I don’t really use them at all.

So, um, The thing about them is not about so much of using them, but are they helping the growth if they are helping the growth and yes, look for the tools to help you grow. So it depends on how you are using it. We got to kind of use something that we can leverage to towards growth. So we need to think of what is that tool to help us grow rather than do it based on emotion or do it based on that spark of inspiration.

All right. So it’s not something like. Uh, creative. What were you? Yes, I got that inspiration. I’m going to do it. Growth is standard. Growth is not just browsing for tools. Growth is not just changing the website, design and colors. Um, you know, you need to make more time for, for sales, for marketing, for lead generation activities.

This is growth. If you are going to improve your referral. Referral system that is also part of growth because you are helping your business to get more leads in, help your, how to get more prospects and then figure out to convert them, to buying customers. So that is growth activity. What if you think you are not adjusting processes and systems to match quality and influx of customers, this would also prevent your growth because.

If there are more customers coming in, can you yourself handle the influx? Can you and your few men team, your two or three designers help you to take on the influx of 10 customers today? Because if you can’t, then you will, you know, you will have to tell some customers that no, I can’t take on your work anymore.

I’m up to the I’m up to the, my neck and I’m full capacity. I can help you. And this prevents your growth. It’s not necessarily that you would say that, but you will probably not try to sell as much anymore and you will stop there and say, okay, we are done for today. This is the number of clients we can take for this week, for this month.

And this will hinder your growth as well. So you need to go through your processes, create some documentation and also self. If I were to have. 10 20, 30 customers tomorrow. Can these processes be used by another designer immediately? Can they just go through these processes? Read your manual, read your digital manual, online, help and knowledge base documentation, and execute.

Do the work and deliver on time. So, this is just minimal kind of standard that you should have already before you say, okay, I can take in that 30 or a hundred customers tomorrow, right? So this is where bottleneck comes in. Usually for many people, another question you can ask is, is your offer solving what people are looking for?

If it’s something that people are not looking for. And you feel like it’s such a good idea. You feel like it’s a good solution. It doesn’t matter if nobody is really or not many people are looking for this solution, then it’s hard to grow. It’s hard for people to say that they want to buy, and then you will see that your sales are not flowing so much and enough to cover your expenses enough to come in as healthy revenue for your company.

So even if your offer can be something that people are looking for, then you need to ask yourself the next thing, which is, is this solution something that can solve a recurring problem? Is it a repeatable process that people need again again and again, to solve that problem? So when it’s an example is a question where I asked myself before I came up with this ongoing graphic service, I have seen people doing it as well.

And I, I, I did model and copy how they are doing as well and kind of transformed how, how others are doing to match my current freelance customers. That’s what I did. I realized that a lot of them need. Ongoing revisions to their designs to match probably another year. For example, events, let’s say 2019, they come up with event collaterals, then they need to refresh it.

They don’t really need to redesign much, but they need to adjust and they need proper design, help designers help and not just on their own, because you know, for them to shift things around, it can take hours. So they’d rather have this help daily to shift things for them to change it to 2020. To change the dates to change the title, to change maybe a bit of how the colors are to match that year.

So things like that, this is just an example. It’s a recurring, it’s a recurring solution, right? Because people will have to come back to them, to us, but is it monthly or yearly depending on what they are requiring. So what I need to look for and what I want to find. Is a problem that is monthly. There is daily there’s weekly.

That happens very frequently. And so our help is much more needed and that’s when people will want to buy. So based on my current customers and based on what I see in the market where people are already selling the, the unlimited graphic design service, I took it on and I, uh, I did some modification to what they have been doing.

And from there I met them too, who my customers really are. And that’s when I use that and put, and put them into the reality and execute them and offer them this offer. And really lo and behold, this solution is something that they want regularly. So remember, If you already have an offer that people are looking for, you need to move a step ahead and ask if it’s solving a recurring problem.

Next question is, are you offering too many offers for too many people? So if let’s say I can do design. If I can do design, there are a lot of design work that I can offer. So, what do I say, Oh, I can do logos. I’ll do logos for industrial companies. Or I also do web design. Do I just go out and say, okay, I can do web design for financial companies.

They’re just way too different. Right. And too many different things that I have to do, processes the systems, the deliverables, the delivery, everything like that will be different. It may not be very far different, but. They will be different. So that, that causes you to spend too much time to make, to make all these different packages and offers for too many different people.

If you are going to go to industrial companies, manufacturing companies to offer logos, and then you have to go to financial companies to offer landing pages. You know what, that’s a switch of different kind of persona, a switch of the different kinds of people. So that takes time and you’re going to create different proposals.

You’re creating different ways of payment that would be taking too much of your, of your time away from the growth of your business. So that’s it. What I want to say at the end of this is. It’s all about what you are doing with your time with this 24 hours or nine, nine waking hours for, for, for that matter for you to do all your work that you have to do.

What kind of, what are you doing? Are you using this work time for impact? Are you doing activities that lead to growth? You don’t really need to do so many things, but within today, have you had one step ahead to what’s growth? Are you closer to growth than yesterday? So, I mean, with all that, with all the questions in mind, I would say right now you can quickly draw up a schedule of your week.

Okay. So a one within the week, you can have one day. Or maybe even every day with your waking hour, let’s say when you wake up, say seven o’clock seven to 10, you’re just going to get leads. That’s it. You’re not going to do anything else. You’re not going to meddle with your website. You’re not going to, to, um, think about your customers for that for, for now.

You’re just going to get leads. So, so do that. And then after that three hours, after that 10, 10 o’clock. Then that’s when maybe you check out your customers and say, Hey, you know, how, how things and, and fulfill, uh, the deliverables to your customers. And then two o’clock, maybe you will get back to your marketing and then maybe four o’clock you will get, get to your sales.

For example, these are examples where you need to set your schedule because these are growth activities. Right. Sales leads, marketing raffles. These are growth activities. So these will make the impact in your company rather than just you handling all the customers things right now and fall for so many hours.

It’s not, it’s not a hundred percent of your waking time to do. Right. You, you, you give them the focus, but you don’t take all your time to work on your customer’s work to think about our customers and, uh, and not, not getting help. Right. So, so these are questions you can think about right now and your weekly schedule as well.

Right? So with that, uh, I have to go and I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.